Top 10 garden plants for the amateur Indian gardener

No matter how good your intentions are, some plants are bound to die quickly under the most watchful eyes. A few experiences like these can discourage and defeat the budding gardener in you. Most of us love seeing plants around us; love seeing those beautiful pictures in the glossy interior design magazines, with plants thriving on all available surfaces.

The fact about indoor plants

Let me comfort you with some information first. Most plants that you see in interior design magazines, malls, and airconditioned indoor nurseries and not grown there. They have alternate locations where they grow these plants, and when they are the right size and appearance, they are brought inside the shops to fool you and me. How do I know this? Because I asked many of them, in many different ways, just to make sure that I was not the only indoor-plant-killer.

Remember that beautiful glossy jade plant you bought from the mall and kept inside the house, and watered exactly as they asked you to, only to find it losing leaves and becoming skeletal in no time? Yes, it happens to the best of us. So here’s my attempt to list out some plants that you can try out for starters.

Top 10 tolerant, sturdy, tenacious indoor plants for the amateur gardener

Here is my list of the top 10 plants you can start with, in your garden or your balcony depending on how much sunlight you get. Yes, sunlight is the most important factor you must consider for plants. Most other factors can be controlled and varied, but not sunlight, unfortunately!

1. Mother-in-law’s tongue/Snake plants – Dracaena Trifasciata

Yes, the name says it all. They are strong, sturdy and capable of handling any situation! Jokes aside, this is one plant you can grow almost anywhere, in the sun or shade, desk or floor, pot or ground…like I said, almost anywhere.They take a while to take root and establish where you plant them. But once they are established, they grow pretty fast producing suckers, the small plants that grow around the parent plant.

They are extremely drought-tolerant and will not show any signs of unhappiness even if you forget to water them for weeks on end. Be sure to give them a big enough pot to grow. If the pot is too small, they will overgrow and crowd the pot, and need repotting too soon. Snake plants need very little fertilization. A little compost once every couple of months and you have a happy plant.

Propagation is very easy. Once they overgrow your pot, take out a few suckers and plant them in other pots. And your garden grows in no time. Added to these other benefits, they have been proven capable of removing common household toxins according to NASA’s green air study. Read more >>

2. Arrowhead plant – Syngonium Podophyllum

The name comes from the unique shape of the leaves, like an arrowhead with a pointy lower tip.

This is one unique plant which can be a bush or a depending on what you want. Once it establishes itself in a place and becomes bushy, Syngoniums will start sending out long stem as creepers or climbers.

If you want them to stay bushy, just cut these stems and replant them. If you want them to grow as climbers, simply provide a support for it to climb on.

Syngoniums can grow very well in water. If you plant a small piece of the plant with a root in water, they will develop lighter colored spongy roots, and thrive there as well.

These are good tabletop plants since they can tolerate shade pretty well. And they grow slower when place indoors in water or in shallow soil. Syngoniums come in a variety of color and shapes, so that you can choose the colors you want in your plant.

Go ahead, buy yourself a sturdy Syngonium!

3. Money plant – Epipremnum Aureum

Money plants are also called Devil’s Ivy since they are next to impossible to kill.

They can grow in water and in soil equally well, though experience tells me that they like soil better. But since they grow slower indoors or in water, they can be kept as smaller plants for a longer period of time.

They come in beautiful color and leaf patterns, each one prettier than the other.

Money plants love climbing and do well as trailing vines decorating the edges of your balcony. Money plants can also clean indoor air of toxins, according to NASA’s clean air study.

Propagation is from stem cuttings, almost any piece of stem with a node can grow roots and become another plant. This makes money plants the must-have plant for any gardener, amateur or professional or in-between. Read more >>

4. Bougainvillea

Most low-maintenance plants are leafy, decorative ones since flowering plants need more care. But Bougainvillas are a class apart.

They do need good sunlight and cannot be grown as an indoor plant. But they can grow in partial shade.

With good sunlight, they bloom profusely, covering the plant with more flowers than leaves.

They are extremely drought tolerant. Plant it and forget it. They are good hedge plants because of their thorns, and their capability to take hard pruning. There are so many colors of bougainvillea, enough to fill your garden with a riot of colors in blooming season.

They are propagated with stem cuttings, though it might take some rooting hormones to get things going. Read more >>

5. Marigold – Tagetes

What is a garden without a marigold plant in it?! They are absolute essentials in gardens that get sufficient sunlight.

They are also not indoor plants and need a good 5-6 hours of sunlight.

Marigold seeds are easy to source and propagate since abundant seeds are produced by a single plant.

Germination rate of seeds is also good, so that you can get a large number of seedlings. These might fight for space and nutrients when planted too close to each other.

So make sure you move plants that have about 5-6 leaves away from each other. They take to repotting or moving very well and will thrive in the new location. Marigolds can attract birds, bees and butterflies to your garden helping the other plants, and improving the overall ambience of your garden. Read more >>

6. Common Ivy – Hedera Helix

A relatively new entrant into the Indian gardens, these are now garden favorites everywhere mainly due to their hardy nature and pretty leaves.

Don’t be fooled by the pretty, tender leaves and vines. They can live almost anywhere in your garden and make it look beautiful.

They look beautiful as desktop plants with their trailing or climbing vines. Their persistent little vines can grow quite long looking for a foothold to start climbing.

Common ivy plants look beautiful in hanging baskets with their long trailing branches. A few hanging baskets can change the ambiance of your garden or balcony in no time.

7. Dracaena

There is no end to the versatility of this beautiful plant. Did you know that the small lucky bamboo you see in supermarkets, growing in tiny bowls are not actually Bamboo? They are a species of Dracaena.

They can grow as tiny, single-layered, double-layered, or even triple layered lucky bamboo plants in small pots or planters indoors.

They can grow as beautifully shaped long curvy sticks that grow in huge pots in a corner of your house.

Dracaena has many other species like dragon tree and Song of India, all of them beautiful and fuss-free. Dracaenas can grow indoors but near a window with some sunlight coming in. They could be tiny 4-inch plants or towering 4-5-meter trees depending on the species. Read more >>

8. Dumbcane – Dieffenbachia

This one comes with a word of warning! They are toxic to humans and pets, since the leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals that can cause inflammation of mouth and throat tissue on ingestion. So make sure you don’t grow them in houses with pets and small children.

Dumbcane leaves look very pretty, and there are many variations of it to choose from.

They don’t become too big, but stay at about 2 meters in pots, making them ideal indoor plants. They are non-fussy, requiring very little water and fertilization. Dumbcanes can handle partial shade and grow well indoors. Read more >>

9. Aloe Vera

You will not believe how easy it is to grow and propagate Aloe Vera plants. They can grow in tiny 2-inch pots as tiny plants or in large 15-inch pots filling them with beautiful succulent stems.

Aloe Vera is good for skin and hair and is used or making cosmetics.

It can treat stomach ailments and improve your overall health. They are used for treating burns and wounds.

Aloe Vera is a good rooting hormone; just rub the cut end of your plants in the aloe vera gel before planting. And propagation is the easiest ever. A single plant will produce many tiny plants around it, which can be pulled out gently and replanted, with almost a 100% survival rate. Read more >>

10. Crotons – Codiaeum Variegatum

Crotons are loved world-over for their beautiful foliage. They come in such varied shapes, sizes and leaf patterns, that you are sure to find one you’ll fall in love with.

Crotons can grow happily indoors though the leaf color might be affected under extreme shade.

They are drought-tolerant and need very little water.

If pest-resistance is a factor you care about, Crotons are the answer to your prayers. Propagation is very easy. Just take a supple stem cutting (not too woody) and keep it in water for couple of weeks till they develop roots. And then plant them.

All these plants are sturdy, low-maintenance and beautiful. But there is one factor you should never forget – they are all sensitive to over-watering. In fact, most garden plants are killed by too much water, than too little water. Read more >>

In Conclusion

A good trick is to check the soil before watering, at least till you learn how much water your plant needs. If the top 1 inch of the soil is dry to touch, it is time to water your plant in moderation. Repeat this trick a few times till you establish a connection with your plant and can figure out how often to water.

If you are growing them in water, check for mosquito larvae occasionally. Changing water every 8-10 days can help the plant get good nutrition.

Happy gardening to you, dear reader! I hope you will send me pictures of your lovely garden. I can be reached through the contact form on this website, or through the page, GreenCoverInitiative on Facebook.

Nothing gives me more joy than pictures of plants well-tended to!